Boaters are encouraged to think safety this week as they prepare their watercraft for the summer and/or head out for a day on the water. 

Mainers love the water, and can often be found on it in everything from single-person kayaks to cabin cruisers! But that enthusiasm sometimes ends in tragedy when folks aren't smart about getting their gear ready and taking the necessary precautions. So the Maine Warden Service, Maine Marine Patrol, and the U. S Coast Guard have offered up some suggestions on ways to recognize Safe Boating week and get your gear ready for the season.

One of the most important tips is to wear a safety vest. A lot of people believe that if the vests are in the boat, they'll be fine. They can grab it when they need it, or find it once they get in the water. But Corporal John MacDonald of the Warden Service assured me in a phone interview this week that it's usually not the case. Accidents happen quickly, leaving little time to think about where you put that vest, let alone have time to put it on. The old orange too-big-and-bulky vests of my past are obsolete. These days, folks can get inflatable vests that will expand when they hit the water. But, as long as they're in the boat, the vest is barely noticeable to the person wearing it.

Another key ingredient to safe boating is being prepared. Make sure all necessary safety devices are not only on the boat, but also in good working order. Boats should have navigation lights, sound signaling devices, and properly displayed current registration numbers. Make sure fire extinguishers are working and there are plenty of flares on board. And when you head out, make up a trip itinerary so someone knows where you plan to be and when you plan to return. You can deviate from it, but take the time to let someone know so, if you do get lost, searchers know where to look for you.

Finally, and perhaps most important, never drink while boating. Just like driving a car, drinking is going to impair your reflexes and your judgement. It's best to enjoy a day on the water and then go home or back to camp for some alcoholic refreshment. Find more tips and information on safe boating on the website for the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.

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